Heads fear overseas staff will hit results

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The Independent Online

The number of foreign teachers securing work permits to teach in British classrooms has more than doubled in the past year as schools draft in staff to fill vacancies, government figures show.

The number of foreign teachers securing work permits to teach in British classrooms has more than doubled in the past year as schools draft in staff to fill vacancies, government figures show.

Headteachers said many more foreigners were coming to the United Kingdom on working holiday visas and warned that standards could be harmed if children were taught by a succession of staff unfamiliar with the English national curriculum.

The Department for Education and Employment processed 734 work permits for teachers arriving in Britain during the past financial year. But that figure was outstripped during the seven months between April and the end of October when 830 overseas staff were given work permits. No figures exist for people working as teachers on holiday visas.

The Department for Education and Employment said numbers were swelled by the decision to increase placeson the graduate teacher programme, which offers on-the-job training to aspiring teachers from home and abroad. But headteachers said the increase pointed to the difficulty schools were having recruiting staff.

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "This is just evidence of the gravity of the current situation. Wereally cannot rely on potentially young and inexperienced foreign teachers ... Some of them are enthusiastic and fast-learning, but they do have a very steep learning curve and it's not easy for them to make the transition to British schools."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: "I have seen a number of heads who on the whole are extremely satisfied with the quality of teachers from overseas. But nobody can pretend that it is anything other than a temporary stop-gap."

Alan Roach, head of Chalvedon School in Basildon, Essex, travelled to Australia in the summer as part of a team recruiting staff. His school currently has six overseas staff, with two more due to arrive in the next few weeks. He praised his recruits, but warned that they faced a culture shock.

Mr Roach said: "These people do not know our system. They get off the plane and they go into a classroom. If they arrive for the start of term they do not even have the experience of an interview day.

"Children reject foreign bodies and the teachers meet that additional challenge."

Marion Rosen, head of Star Primary School in Newham, east London, was part of a team that recruited more than 30 staff in South Africa during September.

Ms Rosen said many of the overseas staff were experienced and several had settled down to long-term careers. She said: "We were only going to bring back teachers with the skills and experience we need in our schools. If you are a good teacher it does not matter if the curriculum has changed; you can pick it up."

* Classroom unions in England and Wales have called for a pay deal matching a 21.5 per cent package over three years agreed by their counterparts in Scotland. The Scottish Executive agreed the deal, which will introduce a 35-hour maximum working week and take classroom pay to a possible £30,000 a year. English teachers are expected to be offered an annual pay rise of between 3.5 and 4 per cent this year.

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